Knight Bachelor

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Knight Bachelor is the lowest rank of the British titular nobility .

The title is bestowed by the British monarch as an award to male British citizens or male citizens of a Commonwealth Realm . The award of the title is associated with the ennoblement , i.e. the elevation to the lower nobility ( knighthood ), as well as with the right to use the predicate Sir as a prefix before the first name. In contrast to the Knight ranks of the state orders of knighthood, the title can not be awarded to women or foreigners; there is no female equivalent to the rank of Knight Bachelor. The title of Knight Bachelor is only awarded as a personal title of nobility and is therefore not hereditary.

History of origin

According to the historian William Arthur Shaw, the addition "Bachelor" goes back to the Norman - French word battalere , which denotes someone who has fought on the battlefield. The rank arose in the early and high Middle Ages in the Spanish and French areas and referred to the free, loose knight who was poor, often had no fiefdom himself and, if so, had no vassals . So he could only enroll himself (of course his assistants, if any) in the army of his feudal lord. In contrast to the squire or squire , he was already a real knight (i.e. had received the knighthood ) and not just a knight candidate. In contrast to the Knight Banneret , who led vassals under his banner, the Bachelor did not lead any other knights, but fought under a foreign banner. The rank was not so much about poverty as it was about youth. In the Chansons de geste , the young knights who did not yet have a fiefdom or a wife who could bring in a fiefdom as a dowry are called bachelers or bachelor . They often fought in the first two lines of battle. The knights who wandered around looking for adventure, competed and hired themselves out to various feudal lords, were also called Knights Bachelor.

The formal award of the dignity of a Knights Bachelor is first found during the reign of King Henry III. in the 13th century. Currently, this dignity is usually bestowed for services to the public, but in some cases also for a specific office. For example, all male judges in the High Court of England and Wales are Knights bachelor's degrees.

Protocol rank

In the Middle Ages, English knights originally distinguished between two ranks, the higher-ranking bannerets and the lower-ranking bachelors . In the course of time, state knightly orders emerged, whose knights ranked between those of the bannerets and the bachelors. The title of Knight Banneret was no longer awarded after 1642 due to the declining military importance of the knights.

To this day, a Knight Bachelor is in the protocolary ranking below or behind those ranks of the state knightly orders, which also rise to the rank of knight (e.g. Knight Companion in the Order of the Garter ; Knight Commander and Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the British Empire ) .

Award ceremony

At the corresponding award ceremony ( investiture ), the recipient kneels on a pillow, whereupon the sovereign - currently Elizabeth II - touches him with a sword, first on the left shoulder, then on the right shoulder. There is no specially defined “consecration formula” that is spoken. The sovereign can also be represented at the accolade, so that in the past other members of the royal family were also commissioned with the ceremony. For example, Mick Jagger was knighted by Prince Charles in 2003 .

The Knights Bachelor badge introduced in 1926
Ribbon buckle of a Knights Bachelor

Salutation and insignia

The direct salutation for a Knight is "Sir" together with the first name (for example "Sir Simon" for Simon Rattle ). The title becomes part of the name ("Sir Simon Rattle"). As a rule, the Knights Bachelor do not have an official abbreviation for the type of award after their surname, as is common with the knights of the order (for example Sir Winston Churchill , KG ). Exceptionally, however, the addition "Kt" ( Knight , not to be confused with "KT", Knight of the Thistle ) can be used if the fact that the person concerned is also a Knight Bachelor, due to a later higher distinction (for example with a Life Peerage ), who actually consumed the knight rank, would not be recognizable.

As an outward sign of the honor, the Knights Bachelor can wear a plaque created for this purpose in 1926 on their lapel .

However, it is possible and extremely common to combine the Knight Bachelor with one of the lower ranks of the state knightly orders . This can sometimes lead to confusion as to where the person concerned gets their address as "Sir". For example, Paul McCartney was appointed as an MBE member of the Order of the British Empire as early as 1965, together with the other Beatles , which, due to the low rank he received, did not yet result in ennobling. However, he did not receive the title "Sir" until 1997, when Queen Elizabeth II knighted him as a Knight Bachelor. Similar examples are Sir Alec Guinness ( CBE 1955, Knight Bachelor 1959) or Sir Elton John ( CBE 1995, Knight Bachelor 1997). On the other hand, Sir Edmund Hillary was never a Knight Bachelor, but received his knighthood in 1953 when he was promoted to the rank of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Award practice

In view of the award practice that is common today, the direction is that the nomination of a Knight Bachelor usually honors the life's work of a particularly important artist , researcher , athlete or businessman .

The appointment as Knight Commander in one of the knightly orders, on the other hand, serves more to honor high-ranking officials or the military, who in many cases already have a lower rank in the respective knightly order - mostly long-term top officials in the British ministries or high officers such as the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces. As a rule of thumb , which is of course imprecise in detail, it can be assumed that the “Sirs” known to the general public are mostly Knights Bachelor's degrees. The appointment of a Knight Commander as a Knight Bachelor has not yet occurred because the Knight Bachelor ranks behind the Knight of the Order. The reverse is possible. Women, on the other hand, are regularly appointed (formally one rank above) Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire under the circumstances in which men are appointed Knight Bachelor .


  • William Arthur Shaw: The Knights of England. Volume 1, Sherratt and Hughes, London 1906, pp. XXXVII ff.

Web links

Commons : Knight Bachelor  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Shaw: The Knights of England. Volume 1 p. Xli.
  3. John Burke, John Bernard Burke (Eds.): Burke's Peerage, Baronetage, and Knightage . Burke's Peerage Ltd, London 1949, pp. Ccii.